Fetal programming and the Leningrad Siege study

Twin Res. 2001 Oct;4(5):287-92. doi: 10.1375/1369052012498.


The Leningrad Siege Study investigated the relationship between decreased maternal food intake and risk factors for coronary heart disease in adult life. The study screened 169 subjects exposed to intrauterine starvation during the Siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) 1941-4, 192 subjects born in Leningrad before the siege and 188 subjects born concurrently with these two groups but outside the area of the siege. No difference was found between the subjects exposed to starvation in utero and during infancy in glucose tolerance [in utero: 5.2 mmol/l (95% confidence interval 5.1 to 5.3; infancy: 5.3 (5.1 to 5.5), p = 0.94], insulin concentration, blood pressure, lipid concentration or coagulation factors. The intrauterine exposed group had evidence of endothelial dysfunction by higher concentrations of von Willebrand factor and a stronger interaction between adult obesity and blood pressure. Non-systematic differences in subscapular to triceps skinfold ratio, diastolic blood pressure and clotting factors were demonstrated compared to the non-exposed groups. In conclusion, this study did not find an association between intrauterine starvation and glucose intolerance, dyslipidaemia, hypertension or cardiovascular disease in adult life. These findings differ from studies of subjects exposed to maternal starvation during the Dutch Hunger Winter. However, the dissimilar effects of exposure to the two famines may contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms of the thrifty phenotype and support the importance of catch-up growth during early childhood, a situation that occurred in the Netherlands by not in Leningrad.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Nutrition Disorders*
  • Placental Insufficiency / complications*
  • Placental Insufficiency / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Russia